The emotional festival being undertaken by the media in respect to the Gilad Shalit affair includes hollow declarations such as the "last-ditch" effort to release him and reports of an "ultimatum" to Hamas. This is yet another test to the Israeli government's ability to draw lessons in respect to negotiations with terror groups.
Up until recent days, it appeared that Prime Minister Olmert internalized the lessons of the disgraceful swap for dead IDF soldiers Goldwasser and Regev in exchange for murderer Samir Kuntar and his living friends; an affair to be remembered as a model of cooperation between Hizbullah and Israel's media. For Hizbullah, it was a successful recipe for weakening the Israeli government, while the media drew high rating figures out of it – and this is the only reason for its existence.
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The moment Hamas pressed the "Shalit's condition" button, Israeli media outlets automatically joined in to assist the terror group's war against Israel. Hamas was left to rub its hands with glee while its partner on the Israeli side again carried out its role precisely as Haniyeh, Mashaal and their colleagues wished it would.
This time, the producers of the Shalit drama chose to focus on the protest tent in Jerusalem, which is being covered ceaselessly in all channels, in line with the rules aimed at keeping viewers glued to TV trash.
It is difficult to criticize people whose son is buried alive, yet the Shalit family was wrong to cooperate with the media. By doing so it played into the hands of a sly and cynical body that views it as no more than a rating-inducing item with similar value to that of reality TV shows.
Additional steps needed
Up until recently and despite serving as a transition government – a status that calls for populist steps – the Olmert government continued to insist that it won't return Shalit based on the terms dictated by Hamas, and this was a good thing. Let's hope that the prime minister will not submit to the urge to end his term in office "on a positive note, at any price," as the previous approach is the one that the next government should also adopt.
Yet this isn't enough. The next government must complement the fight against Hamas' terms with additional steps of the exact same nature Hamas itself specializes in. Israel would do well to cancel the visits of Palestinian prisoners' families, no longer allow detainees to complete their studies, and worsen their upgraded imprisonment conditions.
Just like it happened on the Israeli side, pressure on the part of Palestinian prisoners' families would greatly assist in presenting Hamas as failing to do enough to free its prisoners. This could prompt the group to soften its positions on Shalit.
These moves should be adopted even before Israel utilizes the legitimate weapon of cutting off the supply of energy, food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid extended for some reason to those holding Shalit and refusing to allow visits or relay messages from him. Let's hope that the new government will do it, and soon.
Colonel (Res.) Yehuda Wegman is an expert on military doctrines and IDF history